OJ Mayo Not to Blame

Jim SheldonCorrespondent IMay 13, 2008


The latest college athletic scandal has a deep well of culprits, all of whom are taking their hit since ESPN reported Sunday of a windfall of gifts and cash bestowed on one-and-done USC guard O.J. Mayo.

The NBA's one-year rule is quickly being exposed as riddled with deficiencies. Coaches, administrators, agents and go-between-man/walking ATM Rodney Guillory are all under fire and that's fine. But don't waste any scorn on Mayo himself, because it's misplaced.

I have no problem with Mayo or anybody else in his position walking away with whatever he can get. This is a kid who's been treated like a commodity throughout his high school career. He's been watching others work to profit off his talents for years. For him to do anything else would be surprising.

To call what Mayo did "illegal" or "wrong" is incredibly shortsighted. If the allegations are true, he didn't break the law, he broke NCAA rules. And there's nothing more bogus or hypocritical than the NCAA bylaws.

The history of amateur athletics is about guys in suits getting rich off the sweat of guys in shorts, and about the only place that system is still working is in college sports.

If all the colleges did was sell their tickets and their television rights, maybe that could be rationalized. But, it's gone beyond that, for years.

Start with the licensing, the video games with college players that the kids don't get a dime out of.

The bottom line is that the NCAA and its member colleges have been acting as a professional sports organization for years. This year they even got into the lucrative secondary ticket reselling market. The only difference between the colleges and the pros is that they're not paying the talent.

Is that the solution? It leaves a bad taste for me. Once you start paying the players it's not really college sports any more. But maybe that concept is already long gone, at least when it comes to football and basketball.

The idea that the free room and board should cover it falls way short. That's around $40,000 at a major private college. Coaches are making millions. Administrators are in the six figures. Heck, a Northeast Conference sports information director makes more than that.

I don't have an easy answer, but that doesn't mean the system isn't broken. There are a lot of bad guys in this scenario. O.J. Mayo just isn't one of them.